The Professional Development Dilemma

Uncategorized Jul 11, 2022

Rarely do we ever see teachers screaming, “I want more PD! I want more PD!” It just doesn’t happen. But why? Isn’t professional development a way to help teachers expand what they know? Learn new innovative teaching methods? Yes. But, at the beginning of the school year, teachers want more time in their classrooms to prepare for the first day of school. They view professional development as a waste of time and something they have to “check off the list.” 

 But what if? What if professional development could be viewed differently? What if teachers truly wanted the PD and didn’t view it as something else they have to do? 

 Early in my career I was asked to do professional development workshops in writing in my home state. In every single class, there were always one or two teachers not engaged in the workshop. They were on their laptops. Some were on their phones texting - even back in the days of flip phones. Even though the rest of the class seemed to be hanging on my every word, the classroom management side of me wanted 100% engagement. One day, I asked one of the disengaged why they weren’t paying attention. Her reply was, “I teach math. I don’t teach writing.” In that moment, I nodded and smiled as she walked out of the room. Later, I thought to myself, “You do teach writing in math! Students need to be able to explain how they found their answers in word problems.” From that point on, I made a point to address this elephant in the room before each session. Unfortunately, I forgot one important thing - teachers are great actors! 

 While my workshops were engaging, the bottom line was that teachers wanted to be somewhere else on those days leading up to Day One of a new school year. And, the other issue was the other elephant in the room — the effectiveness of a PD session. 

 It doesn’t matter how great the PD session is or how much it inspires teachers to go out and do great things in their classrooms. That energy fizzles within hours or days. For professional development to be truly effective, it must be ongoing and job-embedded.

 Before Weekly Writer became a curriculum resource, I consulted with schools across the country who wanted to improve their student writing and overall literacy. When I asked teachers to be very honest about their needs, the consistent answer was, “I need someone to show me step by step what to do.” Modeling the writing process was the key to the success I saw in schools. 

 I worked with mainly Title I schools who were scoring anywhere from 7% to 44% passing the state writing assessment in 5th, 7th, and 10th grades. I put a pause on teacher workshops and centered my work around student workshops with teachers observing. The classroom teachers would watch me teach a class in one of the four modes of writing, take notes, and be ready for a debrief activity later that day. Eventually, schools started to video me teaching the lessons, and the teachers would use the videos to build up their own confidence in teaching writing. Did you know that in a nation-wide poll, 82% of teachers k - 8 said they felt uncomfortable teaching writing to their students? That figure really didn’t astound me. I saw it every single time I went to a school. Brilliant, talented educators would admit, “I just don’t want to do anything wrong.” “Writing is not my thing.” 

 One day, an administrator asked me to sign-off on some professional development paperwork. The sessions were listed as “job-embedded.” I had never heard of this, and she explained how effective it was. I did my research, and sure enough - she was right. When teachers receive ongoing, consistent professional development, they are more likely to use what they’ve learned in their classrooms. 

 The results? Every school that utilized this job-embedded PD moved their scores from the bottom of the barrel to 85 - 100% proficient on state assessments. This was huge! But - don’t look at me — the real hero of this story was the classroom teacher who found confidence in teaching writing or added to his/her teaching skillset to be a stronger writing teacher. 

 Today, Weekly Writer offers job-embedded professional development from day one. As teachers utilize this amazing curriculum resource, they are learning as they use the program with their students. 

 Typically, a teacher will start the week with a Let’s Write video of me modeling the writing process step by step. After they watch one or two of the steps, they pause the video and re-teach the same steps with their students face to face. I provide the model. The teacher brings the model into his/her own teaching style and repeats. The teacher learns. The student learns. 

 Weekly Writer will help you reach your literacy goals. With over two hundred hours of me modeling the writing process, great strategies for close reading, and lessons on text-dependent writing, your teachers will have the ultimate curriculum resource at their fingertips. Plus, I’m adding new, dynamic lessons to the program during this school year along with blogs and podcasts - all for our current subscribers. 

 If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out to me at [email protected]    I look forward to learning about your school and your needs for the 2022-23 school year. 


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